Wednesday Letter: A vision of the future

The PATA Global Insights Conference 2017 brought together a range of speakers covering topics such a technology, growth and data. Image: PATA

After a month of awards, insightful events and conferences, the Ticker‘s Paul Yandall envisages the future, plugs PATA’s Global Insights Conference, and applauds some of the industry’s recent award winners.  

Paul Yandall

After the PATA Global Insights Conference 2017, a vision bubbled up on the flight home from the Auckland event. Imagine having a holiday organised by a virtual assistant that knows my preferences: a self-driving taxi turns up, I stroll straight through the ticketless airport to board an autonomous plane, slide into my first class seat (ok, that’s fantasy), stay connected to the internet during my long-haul flight so I can put in a day’s work and check out via virtual reality some experiences at my destination. After landing, my pre-checked passport and scanned features allow me to step smoothly through customs into my waiting, autonomous electric motorhome.

Fanciful? Not really – so much of the above is being tested or is already in market. But I probably would not have put the pieces together if I had not been able to hear directly from some of the speakers at PGIC 2017. Speakers such as Boeing’s John Schubert, who told the conference that his company would be testing commercial passenger-sized autonomous planes next year. Or the head of PATA, Dr Mario Hardy, on the role Artifical Intelligence could play, or is playing, in the industry. Or Russell Craig from Microsoft on how tourism can better leverage and benefit from technology.

On the flip side, having Chris Monk from Decoded walk us through a computer systems hack was a sobering experience (and has finally killed the urge in me to open catpictures.zip files sitting in my inbox). The ease with which a skilled attacker could penetrate a work system was unsettling and Monk’s demonstration was a stark reminder of the risks associated with our increasingly digital world.

One of the most notable qualities of the conference was that the speakers and the agenda encouraged all of us to think outside of the confines of our usual boxes. It allowed us to hear and meet people who may not be directly connected to tourism but whose work and insight could help inform how the industry evolves.

The main driving force for the conference here in NZ, ATEED’s head of tourism, Jason Hill, moves on soon, which means the conference needs a new champion. Let’s hope Hill’s replacement finds it as worthy as he has and that the sponsors continue to support it.

With awards season drawing to a close (although watch out for next Thursday’s Innovation Awards), three organisations have stood out for us so far.

Haka Tourism Group and Ryan Sanders’ sweep of their categories and the Supreme Award at the NZ Tourism Awards 2017 was an outstanding achievement. The team at Haka may be in the business of selling experiences but its own spirit of adventure when it comes to building the company has to be applauded and we watch with great interest to see where it goes to from here.

Tourism West Coast seems to have spent the year collecting gongs for its ‘Untamed Natural Wilderness’ brand and we’re sure there are more to come. It takes something special to cut through our brand-cluttered, marketing-saturated lives but Tourism West Coast has done it despite pushback from some locals initially unhappy with the brand’s connotations. Or is it because of that pushback? The best creative choices contain an element of risk and it’s a testament to Tourism West Coast’s vision that it has seen past the naysayers to bring to life what could be an enduring brand for the region.

Lastly, Real Journeys’ winning of the Supreme Award and the Tomorrow’s Workforce category at the NZ Diversity Awards is deserved recognition for its “wisdom workers” initiative. The programme utilises the company’s older staff to help mentor and upskill younger workers. It is not easy to codify let alone implement and sustain initiatives like these but Real Journeys now has six wisdom workers, who are all NZQA-qualified workplace assessors, and their efforts have helped 250 of the company’s staff gain qualifications. That’s exceptional commitment from the company and one we hope others in the industry will try to emulate.

Just a word on what we at Tourism Ticker are up to. We are working towards a paywall in 2018 with pricing ready in late summer. We will be undergoing a website refresh with a number of new products, tools and partnerships in place by then. Hopefully, you’ll find us worthy of your time and a little of your money too. We have been undergoing some adjustments over the past couple of weeks hence our Morning Bulletin has been hitting your inboxes later than normal and some of our content coverage has arrived later than planned. Normal service resumes next week. Thanks for your support.

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